Should the current downward trend of new COVID-19 infections in South Africa continue – and be sustained – government could fast-track the reopening of regional borders, said Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.
Speaking during a recent National Press Club event, the Minister highlighted that government’s next step was to work toward the reopening of international travel, starting with the opening of regional borders based on the conditions mentioned above.
“We are monitoring the risk of the virus spread and we are satisfied the current downward trend of new infections, if sustained, can fast-track the reopening regional borders soon,” she said.
Kubayi-Ngubane said through regional co-ordination with regional partners, she believed South Africa could create a “regional travel bubble”.
“Africa land markets form the bedrock of tourism in South Africa. This region alone accounts for 71% of international arrivals. This would give a further boost to the recovery efforts of the sector,” she said.
“The rise in domestic tourism together with regional travel will help us build confidence for global travellers so that when we eventually open all our borders, we will be able to attract travellers as a safe destination.”
SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona, has also indicated that regional tourism was a focus for the national tourism body.
“One of the ten strategic recommendations in the draft recovery plan is to prioritise co-operation with neighbouring destinations toward a regional value proposition, as 20% to 30% of all our international travellers go on to travel within the SADC region,” he explained.
Ntshona also emphasised that industry should start the process of building travellers’ trust and address health and safety concerns before opening South Africa’s borders.
However, Tourism Update readers, along with a number of industry leaders, have been vocal in their call for an opening date.
A reader who is a regular visitor to South Africa from Germany, commented: “We are Germans and have been travelling to Cape Town regularly for years. We're just waiting for the date to finally be able to book flights. It would be easy to do a test on entry and return and, like everywhere else, you behave carefully and responsibly. We are foreign tourists who want to come if we are only allowed.”
MD of African Insight, Andrew Anderson, agreed. “What our international partners and tourists want is a DATE when international tourism will open. This is the first step to starting the process of building any trust in tourism, both internally and externally.”